As Carson Kreitzer put the finishing touches on her new play, Behind the Eye, we talked by phone from her home in Minneapolis. We first met when The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer premiered at the Cincinnati Playhouse in 2003. In 2007, 1:23, her disturbing script about several women who drowned their children, got its start here.
Now’s she’s back for a third Cincinnati world premiere, Behind the Eye, a work commissioned by the Playhouse and based on the life of fashion model and photographer Lee Miller (1907-1977).
According to Kreitzer, “Lee Miller was a truly breathtaking beauty who got out from being in front of the camera as fast as possible. She approached Man Ray to learn how to make photos. She (had) a restless intelligence, always looking for the next thing; she opened a photo studio during the Depression. During World War II she came into her own, doing incredible work at great personal risk. She convinced the British edition of Vogue to have a ‘war photo department,’ and she staffed it. She brought her surrealist eye to coverage of the war — crazy angles that reflected the surrealism of what was going on.”
Kreitzer says she discovered a biography of Miller in 2006.
“Here is someone who should be a national heroine, who just absolutely lived her own life,” says Kreitzer, who likes to dig into the psyches of such characters.
“She would not be told what to do; she would not be told what the rules were for women or what she could and could not do.”
Her two previous productions in Cincinnati added elements of myth to stories of real people. I asked if that might be a factor in Behind the Eye. Saying this play was by no means a documentary about Miller, Kreitzer adds, “She is mythic on her own. She was this tremendous life force. A lot of us will see bits of ourselves in her and I think she’s just … incredibly brave and a little bit monstrous and just wonderfully selfish in a way that so few women can be.”
Kreitzer is overjoyed to return to the Playhouse, where her Oppenheimer script simply landed on the desk of Producing Artistic Director Ed Stern eight years ago. That play was an award-winning success. The tough subject matter of 1:23 didn’t help ticket sales for its run at the Playhouse, but Stern told her he had not expected it to. During that production, he told her he wanted to commission her to write a play for the Playhouse to premiere.
“That vote of confidence and concrete belief meant so much to me,” Kreitzer says. “It has carried me through so much. It’s been real continuity.”
Stern has again paired Kreitzer with director Mark Wing-Davey.
“Working with Mark — there’s just nothing better,” Kreitzer says, adding that he “brings things to the work that I didn’t think of but (that I) love, and it’s ‘Oh, god, of course, that’s what that moment needs to be!’ I can just sit there and experience the play coming to life in a way that is more than what I had written.”
That’s a high compliment, but it represents the kind of collaboration that the Playhouse has engendered between this brilliant young playwright and those who bring her life to work.
CONTACT RICK PENDER: firstname.lastname@example.org